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Healthcare-Associated Infection Costs Detailed

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, September 3, 2013

"This study will enable hospital administrators to better prioritize their spending by allowing them to compare the costs of interventions with the savings accrued by avoiding infections," Katz wrote.

As expensive and numerous as these infections are, Zimlichman cautions that the research project left out numerous types of infections. For example, the paper is limited to only to five types of infections that occur only in certain types of hospitals paid under Medicare's Inpatient Prospective Payment System. It excludes infections acquired in long-term care, cancer specialty, pediatric, inpatient rehabilitation, psychiatric, critical access hospitals, and most hospitals in the state of Maryland.


See Also: Antimicrobial Trumps Soap and Water in the ICU


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated the full roster of costs would be between $20 billion to $40 billion a year, with 1.7 million patients infected annually.

Zimlichman says policy changes should focus on three areas. First, he says, there's a need for more federal financial support for infection surveillance and quality improvement initiatives. Second, Medicare's non-payment policies should include more types of infections.

And third, payers should move more quickly to bundled payment and accountable care organization arrangements so hospitals have more incentive to prevent these costly adverse events.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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3 comments on "Healthcare-Associated Infection Costs Detailed"


Richard Weinberg MD (9/9/2013 at 3:25 PM)
Dr. Angel's frustration is easily understood but he misstates the reasoning behind the quality improvement process and the financial penalties to which he refers. The penaities are not designed to be levied on every post op infection; rather, they are designed to be levied on hospitals and surgeons whose infection rates are much higher than the "norm." The wide variation in these rates, which are risk and severity adjusted, is well documented and the CMS programs are designed to get the high-infection-rate institutions and physicians to do better.

Jeff Angel, M. D. (9/4/2013 at 6:43 PM)
Interesting article. Again, putting all the blame on hospitals and surgeons. Wow, why don't we get rid of hosptials and surgeons. Problem solved and save all those calculated dollars. Seriously, much work has been done by hospitals and doctors, but switching to a system that penalizes any infection with not paying someone for 5 days(that is what some of the extreme measures state) or shutting down hospitals, does that really help population? Sometimes, a surgical site infection is going to be 15%, no matter what...does that mean no one is going to do a great surgery, because of an expected infection rate????????????? What about the non-compliant patient[INVALID]refuse life-saving surgery or repairing a shattered femur after car wreck, because if it becomes infected or dvt occur because they smoke, have diabetes, cancer, or some other illness[INVALID][INVALID]-I'M responsible!!?????? Articles like this are sickening to surgeons[INVALID][INVALID]we are doing every swab, hibiclens, stratifying patient, etc we CAN DO!!!!!!!!!!! SURGEONS ARE NOT PROBLEM!!!! Why not run some counter articles. Sickening to see one side constantly!!!!!!!!!!! Dock my pay for expected rate of complications and cut my pay to near zero....who is going to take care of your shattered femur?

PRD (9/4/2013 at 1:40 PM)
I think you meant ventilator- a ssosciated RESPIRATORY tract infections.